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December 8, 2006

ORGANISERS vs SUPPLIERS 2: Getting the most from the relationship

A Premiership football league manager and the players. The Prime Minister and the cabinet. Event organisers and suppliers. You can’t really have one without the other. And crucially, the stronger the relationship between the two elements, the better the results.

“The relationship between the suppliers and the organiser is fundamental to any event’s success, as these two sides have the collective ownership of the event,” says Mark Harding, managing director of crowd management specialists Showsec. “There has to be an acceptance of responsibility on both sides so that everyone takes care of all of the relevant aspects of the event. Crowd management is a people-oriented service, so it is paramount that we understand the ethos the event organisers wish to convey to the people attending the event and live up to the service requirements of those organisers.”

Graham Muir of Arena Structures agrees, saying: “As a supplier, we work alongside the organiser to understand their aspirations. This approach helps to shape and ultimately deliver the visions that organisers have for their event.”

The early birds
To gain this level of understanding, both Harding and Muir say it’s vital for suppliers to be involved as early in the planning process as possible.

“We prefer to work as a service partner with our clients rather than as just a supplier,” says Harding. “This means that we are involved with events and their requirements from the early planning stage and we can tailor our service across the organisation of the event. This involvement improves the relationship we have with organisers as we are able to build trust that we can deliver.”

Meanwhile Muir highlights the potential money-saving aspect of getting all suppliers in at the start. “By involving other supply partners at the earliest opportunity, savings can often be found in areas such as transportation or shared labour.”

Such savings are achieved when suppliers are prepared to go that extra mile and cooperate with each other. “A good supplier should be flexible and meet changing requirements by not thinking unilaterally, and looking at the bigger picture to provide a better service,” says Harding. “It is integral to a successful event for suppliers to build good relationships with each other and work together.”

However, an over zealous approach to cost cutting, where suppliers’ margins are ignored in the name of simply taking the cheapest route, can derail this process, as suppliers will simply want to do their job as quickly as possible, keeping the additional effort required in cooperating with other companies to a minimum. This approach also stifles the development of key long-term relationships, which help build the trust factor that can make the organising of future events so much easier and less stressful.

“Our drive to develop good relationships with clients means we have a certain amount of longevity in our contracts, and are therefore able to plan investment and resource allocation to deliver a better service,” explains Harding.

An innovative approach

Suppliers can also reduce overall event costs and increase efficiency by keeping up to date with the latest innovations. “We can help the client achieve the best for their event by being aware of new products that can either improve the event environment, or save them money,” says Muir, who goes on to emphasise the importance of suppliers being flexible and prepared.

“We plan for the unexpected,” he says, “so we have the flexibility to be able to react quickly to either last-minute changes or circumstances such as adverse weather. A good example of that was at the recent Ryder Cup in Ireland where severe weather conditions battered the course the night before the opening day. Our structures were fine, and our on-site team were happy to pitch in and help the organisers all round the course to ensure it was tidy and safe for the players and public.”

Meanwhile, Harding believes honesty about what you can and can’t do is a vital trait for a supplier. “Be clear and concise in what you can deliver,” he says. “Do not over stretch resources. There is significant strength in saying exactly what you are able to deliver. Do smaller contracts well, not larger contracts badly. There is significant weakness in not being able to recognise your limits.”

So it’s clear that suppliers can bring a lot more to the events table than simply fulfilling their basic task, and this is what organisers should not only look for but also demand. However, they can encourage this approach by treating suppliers as partners not commodities, and by doing so will achieve not only cost savings, but also a far better service to the benefit of the event as a whole.

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